The Dazzling Heights of Cerro San Cristobal

Yours truly, braving the heights
Yours truly, braving the heights

As far as I knew, there were no roller coasters here in Lima; no perks for adrenaline-junkies apart from perhaps paragliding off the cliffs in Miraflores. Well, I exaggerate slightly due to being such a scaredy-cat, but if you’re looking for a hair-raising thrill might I suggest taking the open top bus up to the peak of Cerro San Cristobal. At 400 meters above sea level, it may not compete with the heights of Macchu Picchu, but it certainly offers a fantastic panoramic view of Lima…if you can make it to the top.

Luckily there’s no need to hike like Wayna Picchu, you can hop on one of the many (and I really mean many) tourist buses for a small fee. The bus will chuff its way up the winding streets through the Rimac neighborhood eventually wheezing its way to the very top. Don’t be fooled by the sprightly grandmas strolling up the hill with their shopping bags, it’s a rather steep climb in places. Incidentally, the Rimac neighborhood is named after the river that flows through the city…but does it sound familiar to you? Perhaps because the word Rimac is where the name Lima comes from. Apparently, the Spanish weren’t able to pronounce the native name  (or were just being lazy) so named the city Lima. Its an interesting thought to consider as the bus takes you through the neighborhood, but what awaits you at the top?

Great views over the city
Great views over the city

Without a doubt, an absolutely stunning view of Lima. You can see virtually every neighborhood, all the way to Miraflores and the ocean. It’s also interesting to notice how the houses have been placed up the hillsides of the various mounds around the city. Once this land was unoccupied, but as more and more immigrants came to Lima from the provinces, looking to seek their fortunes, they needed somewhere to live. There was a law that if you inhabited a piece of land for over 5 years, then you would become the legal owner. And so naturally, many Peruvian migrants started building on the bits of land that no one else wanted, up the sides of the hills, in the hope that they would be able to hold on to them for the required time. Most of them did, resulting in numerous ‘barrios jovenes’ (young neighborhoods) that were comprised of Lima’s original migrants.

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If you look to the other side, prosperous San Isidro and Miraflores come into view, with their beautiful coastline and wealth of shopping malls and quality restaurants. I’ve mentioned before how Lima is like a microcosm of Peru, and the view from Cerro San Cristobal is a great example of this. If you look to one side you can see migrants from the mountains making their new homes up the sides of Lima’s mini mountains. To the other side, the cosmopolitan and wealthy city residents enjoying life by the sea. It’s a fascinating view of a complex city, and a great photo opportunity.
That said, the bus navigates some sharp turnings with steep drops on either side, so if you are afraid of heights as I am, I strongly recommend you do your pisco tasting before boarding in order to gain your courage for the ride! If not, both arms in the air and try not to scream!

Beckie is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.

Beckie Melanie

Beckie is a professional lover of Peru, with two Masters degrees in Anthropology & Development, for which she undertook research in the Andean highlands. She is now starting her PhD with a research focus on Peruvian medicine, so loves to learn all she can about the people and their culture! Beckie is currently learning Quechua, and recommends that everyone come to Peru and try ceviche.

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